Arts & Entertainment

Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

Just in time for the holidays, Fathom Events and the Autism Society of America will bring a first-of-its-kind sensory-friendly cinema event featuring the Bolshoi Ballet’s 2014 production of “The Nutcracker,” captured from the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia, to select cinemas nationwide on Monday, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.

Danced by the Bolshoi’s principals, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s fairy tale staged by Russian ballet master Yuri Grigorovich will transport children and adults alike to a world of magic and wonder for the holiday season. In this special cinema presentation audience members are encouraged to be themselves; the lights will be turned up, the sound will be turned down and you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing!

Participating theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews 17 in Stony Brook, Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas and Island 16: Cinema de Lux in Holtsville. For more information, visit www.fathomevents.com.

The recently opened Reboli Center for Art and History, located at 64 Main Street in Stony Brook Village, is inaugurating a new monthly program called Third Friday at the Reboli. Third Friday is modeled after a number of nationally successful events sponsored by art centers that bring communities together with artists, speakers, authors, performers and other special guests to offer programs that will allow the visitor to experience these institutions in an entirely different way.

“Our goal at the Reboli Center is to involve the community in our programs and be an inspiration for artistic and historical interpretations. We have had such an overwhelmingly positive response to our opening and we want to continue with offering exciting free programs like Third Friday at the Reboli,” said Reboli Center President Lois Reboli. “Our hope is that Third Friday will become a community tradition.”

The first Third Friday program will be held on Friday, Dec. 16 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Reboli Center. The initial program will feature a panel of artists who are currently exhibiting in the Design Shop at the Reboli Center. The artists Pam Brown, Robin Clonts, David Ebner, Jim Molloy and Doug Reina create in a variety of mediums, and the evening will allow the audience members to hear about the philosophies underlying their work and about the practical, artistic and other quirky processes at work in their studios. The audience will have the opportunity to join the discussion. In addition, visitors can get a sneak peak at the gallery’s upcoming exhibit, Joseph Reboli: A Sense of Place, which will be on view from Dec. 18 to Jan. 29, and shop for unique holiday gifts from local artists at the Design Shop.

Future Third Friday programs will discuss historical topics, introduce other artists, offer sketching events, present musical performers, hear local authors and offer other engaging programming that will bring new connections and fresh perspectives. Third Friday programs are free to the public and do not require a reservation. For more information call 631-751-7707 or visit the Reboli Center website at www.ReboliCenter.org.

By Daniel Dunaief

In medieval times, armies needed to understand the structure of the castles they were about to attack. Enough information could enable a leader to find a weakness and exploit it, giving his troops a plan to take over the castle. Today, researchers use advanced tools to study the molecular structure of everything from tumors to the protein plaques involved in neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

Recently, William Van Nostrand and Steven Smith, scientists at Stony Brook University who have worked together for over 10 years, discovered subtle differences in amyloid fibril structures that surround blood vessels and neurons. Many forms of the structures likely have some contributory effect to cognitive declines, although researchers debate the extent of that contribution, Van Nostrand said.

Above, William Van Nostrand completes a triathlon this past September in Lake George. Photo courtesy of William Van Nostrand
Above, William Van Nostrand completes a triathlon this past September in Lake George. Photo courtesy of William Van Nostrand

Amyloid fibrils in plaques in the space between neurons have subunits lined up side by side in a head-to-head manner. Van Nostrand and Smith’s new work, which was published in Nature Communications, showed that vascular amyloid subunits, which are on the vessel’s surface, have a different configuration, lining up side by side in an alternating head-to-toe pattern.

This structural difference generates a new set of questions that might provide insight into ways to diagnose or treat diseases or cognitive declines. The structural difference in the vascular forms may provide a way to determine how they uniquely contribute to cognitive decline, which could have implications for diagnostic and therapeutic intervention.

“We want to know if these different structures cause different responses,” said Van Nostrand, who was the co-lead investigator in the study with Smith and is a professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Stony Brook. The research came from a close structural analysis of the amyloid buildup in mouse models of the disease. Van Nostrand provided the animal models and did the vascular amyloid isolation, while Smith, a professor and the director of structural biology in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, conducted the structural study.

“The more we understand about how these peptides assemble (and which components and structural motifs actually are toxic to neurons), the easier it is to target” the problem, Smith explained in an email. While the mouse models the scientists studied may have some differences from the human forms of the disease, Van Nostrand said the group also conducted some preliminary studies that showed that vascular amyloid from human vessels has the same structure as the vascular amyloid in isolated vessels from the mice.

Van Nostrand and Smith have “investigated the structure of vascular amyloid in one case of a transgenic mouse and from vessels isolated from the brain of one human patient that had spontaneous cerebral amyloid angiopathy,” Smith said. “In both cases, the structure was anti-parallel, which provides some confidence when we start investigating additional mouse and human samples, we will also find the structure is anti-parallel.”

Van Nostrand’s lab studies pathogenic mechanisms in neurodegenerative diseases, including cerebral amyloid angiopathy. In Alzheimer’s disease, patients have these amyloid or protein plaques around neurons. In about 90 percent of these, people also have protein buildup around blood vessels, where the amount can vary.

Amyloid plaques on the surface of blood vessels are “a lot more common than previously thought,” Van Nostrand said. The consequences of these amyloid fibrils on blood vessels can affect other conditions and treatments for medical challenges including an ischemic stroke. Typically, doctors can prescribe a tissue plasminogen activator. While the drug works to break up the blood clot in the brain, it can cause amyloid blood vessels, if they are present, to bleed, which is a serious side effect.

It would be particularly helpful for doctors and their patients if they knew with certainty before doctors gave any drugs whether the patient had any of these plaques around their blood vessels. The current state of the art in searching for these plaques around blood vessels is to look for any signs of bleeding.

Van Nostrand and Smith are searching for biomarkers that could indicate the presence of specific types of amyloids. “If you had a probe that would recognize a structure, can you also use that for imaging?” Van Nostrand asked. Such a probe might be able to distinguish between the parallel and anti-parallel orientation of the proteins in the plaques.

Van Nostrand said there are rare mutations that create blood vessel amyloids, without the plaque between the neurons. People with only blood vessel amyloids have cognitive impairments, Van Nostrand said, but it’s not the same as Alzheimer’s pathology. In addition to partnering with Smith, Van Nostrand works with Lisa Miller, a biophysical chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory and collaborators in the Netherlands.

A resident of Poquott, Van Nostrand competes in triathlons and iron man events. During the offseason, when the weather isn’t particularly warm, he still does some training. Van Nostrand’s oldest son, Joffrey, who earned his undergraduate degree at Stony Brook, graduated from law school and is now working at a law firm in Wisconsin. His younger son, Kellen, is applying to graduate school to study psychology. Van Nostrand has an 11-year old daughter, Waela, with his wife Judianne Davis. Waela has done two triathlons and “puts me to shame in 100 yards swimming,” Van Nostrand proudly confessed.

As for his work, Van Nostrand, Smith and their collaborators are focused on understanding how to exploit any differences in the plaques, so they can make progress in the battle against neurodegenerative diseases. “We are interested in understanding structure and pathological functions” of different states of the subunits of amyloid fibrils, Van Nostrand said.

unknown-2The Seiskaya Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” a perennial holiday favorite on Long Island, returns to Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts for a six-performance run from Friday, Dec. 16 to Monday, Dec. 19. This classical ballet rendition has earned praise from critics and audiences alike. Hailed in its 1995 debut as Long Island’s most lavish “Nutcracker,” the Seiskaya Ballet production of the classic holiday ballet is a truly international collaboration, choreographed by world-renowned Russian-born choreographer Valia Seiskaya.

This year’s cast will be led by guest artist Nick Coppula (pictured above), formerly with the Pittsburgh Ballet, who will play the role of Cavalier, and Seiskaya’s award-winning principal dancers Jenna Lee, Diana Atoian and Brianna Jimenez (pictured above) along with first soloists Max Lippman, Jamie Bergold, Amber Donnelly and Lara Caraiani.

Performances will be held on Friday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17 at 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 18 at 1 and 6 p.m. and Monday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 adults, $34 children and seniors, and $30 for groups of 20 or more; on sale now at the Staller Center Box Office at 631-632-ARTS and at www.nutcrackerballet.com. (Box office hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour prior to all performances. Online seat selection is available for all shows.)

‘Rush’s Lancers’ by Winslow Homer, 1886; Courtesy of the Mort Kunstler Collection. Image from The Heckscher Museum of Art

By Ellen Barcel

Two related exhibits have opened at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington: Normal Rockwell and Friends: American Illustrations from the Mort Künstler Collection (through March 5, 2017) and Mort Künstler: The New Nation (through April 2, 2017). Related in theme (American artists and subjects), related in exhibit time and related through American artist Mort Künstler himself, the duel exhibits complement each other perfectly.

Norman Rockwell and Friends

Norman Rockwell’s ‘A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!’ (aka ‘World of Charles Dickens’), 1937; Mort Künstler Collection. Courtesy Norman Rockwell Family Agency. Image from The Heckscher Museum of Art
Norman Rockwell’s ‘A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!’ (aka ‘World of Charles Dickens’), 1937; Mort Künstler Collection. Courtesy Norman Rockwell Family Agency. Image from The Heckscher Museum of Art

Mort Künstler, an American artist himself, has long collected the works of late 19th century and early 20th century artists/illustrators. The current exhibit at the Heckscher (Norman Rockwell and Friends) highlights Künstler’s collection and is unique because this is the first time these works are being shown to the public. The 75 pieces on display, such a broad variety of artists, represent 39 artists including Edwin Austin Abbey, Howard Chandler Christy, Dean Cornwell, Charles Dana Gibson, George Gross, Winslow Homer, J.C. Leyendecker, Thomas Lovell, Maxfield Parrish, Howard Pyle and, of course, Norman Rockwell.

In a recent phone interview, Künstler remarked that of the many artists he collected, he knew several personally. Thomas Lovell was “almost like a mentor” to him and George Gross “really was my mentor,” adding, “I did have the pleasure of talking to Norman Rockwell on the phone.”

Künstler’s collecting goes back to at least 1972 “or earlier,” he commented, over four decades of seeking out the best illustrators of the early 20th century. Why these particular artists? “I liked the work,” he said, from when he was in art school. Künstler stated that many of the artists were members of the Society of Illustrators, a professional organization founded in 1901. Gibson was one of its early presidents. Included in the nine founding artists were N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle, both in the current exhibit. The heyday of the society’s art shows was during the Roaring Twenties and Great Depression of the 1930s.

“All were illustrators,” said Künstler. “There was no TV (back when they were working). The only visuals that people got were out of magazines and newspapers. Visually, they were the ones who created the fashions. Charles Dana Gibson was the creator of the Gibson girl.” She was recognized as the personification of feminine beauty in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “The illustrators were idolized like movie stars. They reached out to thousands of people. They were the superstars of that era.”

Why the exhibit now? “I got to know Michael Schantz, executive director at the Heckscher Museum, well. He came to lunch, visited, loved the collection. … It was time to let it go out,” said Künstler.

“One of the extraordinary things about this is that both the Künstlers allowed us to take everything off their walls, from the house. It was just an extraordinary gesture. It speaks so well of the relationship between this museum and the Küntslers,” said Schantz. “I met with him quite a few times. I recorded him for hours and hours — a record of the interesting stories, the hunt for the works, where he found them and how he found them.” He added that some of these stories are related in the information cards in the exhibit.

Mort Künstler: The New Nation

The museum also has a related exhibit, Mort Künstler: The New Nation, featuring Küntsler’s most recent work including his paintings of the early years of the United States. Künstler, who is particularly known for his Civil War paintings, reflected that his interest in American history came about because “almost all of my work was commissioned,” and frequently those commissions related to American history.

Above, ‘Washington’s Crossing: McKonkey’s Ferry, Dec. 26, 1776,’ 2011; oil on canvas, 33 × 50 in., from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Suozzi. Image courtesy of The Heckscher Museum
Above, ‘Washington’s Crossing: McKonkey’s Ferry, Dec. 26, 1776,’ by Mort Künstler, 2011; oil on canvas, 33 × 50 in., from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Suozzi. Image courtesy of The Heckscher Museum

“My book, ‘The New Nation’ [‘The New Nation, The Creation of the United States in Paintings and Eyewitness Accounts’] will act as the catalogue of the show,” said Künstler. “I did some of the work for the bicentennial in 1976,” then did additional paintings, he said. The book, with text by American military historian Edward G. Lengel and David H. Fischer, will be available at the museum. Künstler, who has published 10 books of his art work, now also has a children’s book series as well, “based on my paintings.” Themes of the four books include the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Wild West and World War II. The works are written by well-known historians (particularly James “Bud” Robertson) for children ages 10 to 15.

Howard Shaw, president and director of the Hammer Galleries in Manhattan, has known and worked with Künstler for more than 25 years. “Mort is considered the country’s leading historical artist,” said Shaw. “Not only has he incredible technique but he does enormous research so that even the smallest detail is accurate.” Shaw went on to relate an incident where Künstler was researching information with a number of historians for a painting he was doing. Only one was able to get back to him “one or two hours before the opening of the show. With the painting on the gallery wall, Mort repainted that particular part of an insignia,” so that it would be historically correct.

Shaw observed the joy that goes into Künstler’s work. “He told me if it ever feels like work, ‘I’ll stop doing it.’ Over 70 years he hasn’t felt he’s had a job.”

A gallery tour and talk with Mort Künstler will be held on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the museum (inclement weather date is Jan. 19). Members are invited to attend free, for nonmembers there is a $5 charge.

The Heckscher Museum of Art, is located at 2 Prime Ave., Huntington. The museum is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day). For further information, visit www.heckscher.org or call 631-351-3250.

By Kevin Redding

We took to the streets of the North Shore to find out what everyone’s favorite holiday movie was and why.

Bella Ayer
Bella Ayer

Bella Ayer, Setauket I watch a lot of the old ones like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” and those types of movies. “The Year Without a Santa Claus” is one of my favorite Christmas movies because it’s such a classic and whoever made the movie put so much time and effort in animating it … it’s just so well put together and such a good story. Even though it was made like 30 or 40 years ago, I still loved it as a kid and still love it now.

Bill Herrmann
Bill Herrmann

Bill Herrmann, Port Jefferson I would definitely say “A Christmas Story.” I can’t get enough of it and I think the father makes the whole movie, how he hates the dogs next door and just all of his mannerisms. I love the narration by Jean Shephard too … it’s like an outsider looking in but also like a firsthand recap of what he went through. It’s one of those staples where you gotta expect it to be on 12 times in a row every year. I’d watch it with my family, by myself, or even trick someone into watching it with me.

Rebecca Unno
Rebecca Unno

Rebecca Zunno, Huntington I love “A Christmas Story” because it really reminds me of how my parents were raised, and I love watching it with them because they just laugh the whole way through and it’s one of my dad’s favorite films. I also like Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” because it has the best soundtrack, but “Elf” is definitely my favorite overall. I just love it because it’s funny and goofy and warm, and it kind of brings that sentimental teariness that we love as audience members. I think it’s important to have Christmas films that just make you feel like you’re a kid again. And I love Zooey Deschanel and I remember that was the first time I ever heard her sing [in the shower scene] and she has a beautiful voice. And Will Ferrell just cracks me up and he’s adorable in that. He’s just a big kid and it makes me laugh.

Vera Wilde
Vera Wilde

Vera Wilde, Port Jefferson Well, I love “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I always have to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” because it just makes it seem like Christmas to me and my family. I have to watch it every year, even more than once. It’s just the whole feeling of Christmas, family, generosity, a whole community coming together … it’s a wonderful movie.

 

Christina Urso and family
Christina Urso and family

Christina Urso, Port Jefferson I think our family’s favorite holiday movie is “A Christmas Story” because I think it just reminds everybody of their own little crazy family. We pull the DVD out and watch it every year. I’ve watched it since I was a kid and teenagers and it’s just something that’s been passed down and now our children like it. They were actually a little afraid of the bully [Skut Farkus] for the first few years and didn’t watch it for a while, so it took them a little time. It’s just a funny, silly movie but again I think it reminds everybody of their own family.

Scott Walsh
Scott Walsh

Scott Walsh, Hauppauge It would have to be “Die Hard.” It is a Christmas movie; it’s based around Christmas, he’s trying to go home to see his daughter, it’s a great movie. Yeah, “Die Hard” is the best Christmas movie of all time. Bruce Willis is in it and I love Bruce Willis and it’s a great action movie, has Christmas music in it … it’s a classic.

 

Amanda Damone and Jacob Ward
Amanda Damone and Jacob Ward

Amanda Damone, Sound Beach I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every year. I watch it twice [in early December and Christmas Eve] in full with my dad. Everyone in the family thinks it’s really boring and annoying, but I’m the only family member who watches it with him.

Jacob Ward, Port Jefferson I really like “The Polar Express.” I love Tom Hanks’ acting in all five of his roles in that movie and I loved it as a kid and seeing it on the big screen was really cool.

Nancy Sanks, Steven Guild, Joanna Guild, Coram

Joanna Guild, Steven Guild and Nancy Sanks
Joanna Guild, Steven Guild and Nancy Sanks

 

Joanna Guild: I like “The Holiday” a lot and remember seeing it when it came out. I like the mellow romantic ones.

Nancy Sanks: “While You Were Sleeping” [with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman] is one of my favorite ones, because I have three daughters and we started watching those because it puts you in the Christmas mood and it’s friendly and it’s light romance and cozy “hot chocolate” kind of movie. And I’ve always liked “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” with Chevy Chase and all the lights.

Steven Guild: “Elf” is a classic.

PHOTOS BY KEVIN REDDING

Panera Bread Regional Training Manager Lauren Trotter, second from left, and Panera Bread Vice President of Operations Greg George, center, accept a Certificate of Congratulations on the store’s behalf from Brookhaven Town Clerk Donna Lent, far left, Councilman Kevin LaValle, second from right, and Supervisor Ed Romaine, far right. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Panera Bread opens in Selden

Panera Bread in Selden celebrated a “bread breaking” grand opening ceremony on Dec. 5. Town of Brookhaven’s Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) and Town Clerk Donna Lent (R) attended the event to wish them well and presented the store with a Certificate of Congratulations. The restaurant, located at 1 College Plaza (in the same shopping center as Bob’s Stores and ShopRite) on Middle Country Road, is owned and operated by Panera Bread franchisee Doherty Enterprises and will be the chain’s 33rd Long Island location. The new location has a drive-thru window, one of only three Panera Bread locations on Long Island to have the feature, and hiring is currently underway to fill the 60 jobs at the new Selden location, according to a company statement. Call 631-698-1780 for more information.

Job Lot comes to Centereach

Rhode Island-based discount retailer Ocean State Job Lot recently celebrated the grand opening of its Centereach store. Located at 2134 Middle Country Road in part of the former Pathmark Supermarket space, the 40,000-square-foot store is the chain’s second Long Island store along with North Babylon. Ocean State Job Lot first opened for business in North Kingstown, R.I., in 1977. The chain now has 124 stores in eight states, each with between 30 and 40 employees. Using the slogan, “A Lot More for a Lot Less,” the chain asserts that it sells quality brand name merchandise at close out prices. Customers can shop for a variety of goods including clothing, housewares, food, beauty supplies and holiday items. Hours are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. For more information, call 631-467-7578 or visit www.oceanstatejoblot.com.

Project Warmth

Project Warmth, United Way’s emergency energy one-time fuel and fuel-related assistance program to help families and individuals with heat-related crises during the winter months, is currently underway. For more information, contact United Way by dialing 211 or call the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center at 631-385-2305.

On Saturday, Dec. 3, the Smithtown Historical Society decked its halls and walls for its annual Heritage Country Christmas. At the center of the festivities was the popular Community Wreath Contest. Guests had the opportunity to view and vote on a selection of 23 unique entries. Designers were able to choose from any type of material with a minimum size restriction of 12 inches and maximum size of 24 inches in diameter. At the end of the evening each wreath was auctioned off in a drawing to raise funds for the Smithtown Historical Society.

The Best in Show Community Choice was awarded to Smithtown’s Maureen Smilow’s evergreen with berries wreath. Honorable mentions were Marti McMahon of St. James and Angela Della Croce of Bethpage.

The Smithtown Historical Society wishes to thank all the participants and contributing community members and to extend a happy holiday to the Smithtown community and thank them for their continued support. For more information on the society’s programs and events, call 631-265-6768 or visit www.smithtownhistorical.org.

Dementia symptoms include impairments in thinking, communicating, and memory. Stock photo

By David Dunaief, M.D.

When you hear the word dementia, what is your reaction? Is it fear, anxiety or an association with a family member or friend? The majority of dementia is Alzheimer’s, which comprises about 60 to 80 percent of dementia incidence (1). There is also vascular dementia and Parkinson’s-induced dementia, as well as others. Then there are precursors to dementia, such as mild cognitive impairment, that have a high risk of leading to this disorder.

Dr. David Dunaief
Dr. David Dunaief

Encouraging data

There is good news! A recent study, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a prospective (forward-looking) observational study, suggested that dementia incidence has declined (2). This was a big surprise, since predictions were for significant growth. Dementia declined by 24 percent from 2000 to 2012. There were over 10,000 participants 65 years old and older at both the 2000 and 2012 comparison surveys. There was also a decrease in mild cognitive impairment that was statistically significant. However, the reason for the decline is not clear. The researchers can only point to more education as the predominant factor. They surmise that more treatment and prevention of risk factors for cardiovascular disease may have played a role.

So how is dementia defined?

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 (“Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” Fifth Edition), dementia is a decline in cognition involving one or more cognitive domains. In addition to memory, these domains can include learning, executive function, language, social cognition, perceptual-motor and complex attention (3).

What can be done to further reduce dementia’s prevalence?

Knowing some of the factors that may increase and decrease dementia risk is a good start. Those that raise the risk of dementia include higher blood pressure (hypertension), higher heart rate, depression, calcium supplements in stroke patients and prostate cancer treatment with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).

What abates risk?

This includes lifestyle modifications with diet and exercise. A diet shown to be effective in prevention and treatment of dementia is referred to as the MIND (Mediterranean–DASH intervention for neurodegenerative delay) diet, which is a combination of the Mediterranean-type and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets. Surprisingly, there is also a cocktail of supplements that may have beneficial effects.

How does medication to treat dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s, fit into this paradigm?

It is not that I was ignoring this issue. Our present medications are not effective enough to slow the disease progression by clinically significant outcomes. But what about the medications in the pipeline? The two hottest areas are focusing on tau tangles and amyloid plaques. Recently, drugs targeting tau tangles from TauRx Therapeutics and amyloid plaques from Eli Lilly failed to achieve their primary clinical end points during trials. There may be hope for these different classes of drugs, but don’t hold your breath. The plaques and tangles may be signs of Alzheimer’s dementia rather than causes. Several experts in the field are not surprised by the results.

Let’s look at the evidence.

The quandary that is blood pressure

If ever you needed a reason to control high blood pressure, the fact that it may contribute to dementia should be a motivator. In the recent Framingham Heart Study, Offspring Cohort, a prospective observational study, results showed that high blood pressure in midlife — looking specifically at systolic (top number) blood pressure (SBP) — increased the risk for dementia by 70 percent (4). Even worse, those who were controlled with blood pressure medications in midlife also had significant risk for dementia.

There were 1,440 patients involved in the study over a 16-year period with an examination every four years. Then, those patients who were free of dementia were examined for another eight years. Results showed a 107-patient incidence of dementia, of which half were on blood pressure medications. And when there was a rapid drop in SBP from midlife to late in life, there was a 62 percent increased risk, to boot. Thus, the moral of the story is that lifestyle changes to either prevent high blood pressure or to get off medications may be the most appropriate route to reducing this risk factor.

Prostate cancer inflates dementia risk

Actually, the title above does not do justice to prostate cancer. It is not the prostate cancer, but the treatment for prostate cancer, androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), that may increase the risk of dementia by greater than twofold (5). Treatment duration played a role: those who had a year or more of ADT were at higher risk. ADT suppresses production of the male hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. The study involved over 9,000 men with a 3.4-year mean duration; however, it was a retrospective (backward-looking) analysis and requires a more rigorous prospective study design to confirm the results. Thus, though the results are only suggestive, they are intriguing.

Calcium supplements — not so good

In terms of dementia, the Prospective Population Study of Women and H70 Birth Cohort trial has shown that calcium supplements, especially when given to patients who have a history of stroke, increase the risk of dementia by greater than sixfold (6). Those who had white matter lesions in the brain also had an increased risk. The population involved 700 elderly women, with 98 given calcium supplements. How do we reduce this risk? Easy: Don’t give calcium supplements to those who have had a stroke. This brings more controversy to taking calcium supplements, especially for women. You are better off getting calcium from foods, especially plant-based foods.

The MIND diet to the rescue

In a recent study, results showed that the MIND diet reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia by 53 percent in those who were adherent. It also showed a greater than one-third reduction in dementia risk in those who only partially followed the diet (7). There were over 900 participants between the ages of 58 and 98 in the study, which had a 4.5-year duration. When we talk about lifestyle modifications, the problem is that sometimes patients find diets too difficult to follow. The MIND diet was ranked one of the easiest to follow. It involves a very modest amount of predominantly plant-based foods, such as two servings of vegetables daily — one green leafy. If that is not enough, the MIND diet has shown the ability to slow the progression of cognitive decline in those individuals who do not have full-blown dementia (8).

Supplement cocktail

To whet your appetite, a recent study involving transgenic growth hormone mice (which have accelerated aging and demonstrate cognitive decline) showed a cocktail of supplements helped decrease the risk of brain deterioration and function usually seen with aging and in severe Alzheimer’s dementia (9). The cocktail contained vitamins, minerals and nutraceuticals, such as bioflavonoids, garlic, cod liver oil, beta carotene, green tea extract and flax seed. Each compound by itself is not considered to be significant, but taken together they seem to have beneficial effects for dementia prevention in mice.

The reasons for dementia may involve mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and inflammation that are potentially being modified by these supplements. Hopefully, there will be more to come on this subject. It comes down to the fact that lifestyle modifications, whether in terms of reducing risk or slowing the progression of the disease, trump current medications and those furthest along in the drug pipeline. There may also be a role for a supplement cocktail, though it’s too early to tell. The MIND diet has shown some impressive results that suggest powerful effects.

References: (1) uptodate.com. (2) JAMA Intern Med. online Nov. 21, 2016. (3) uptodate.com. (4) American Neurological Association (ANA) 2016 Annual Meeting. Abstract M148. (5) JAMA Oncol. online Oct. 13, 2016. (6) Neurology. online Aug. 17, 2016. (7) Alzheimers Dement. 2015;11:1007-1014. (8) Alzheimers Dement. 2015;11:1015-1022. (9) Environ Mol Mutagen. online May 20, 2016.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Once again the holiday season is upon us. It is a time to reflect and slow down; a time to give thanks for the blessings we’ve received. It is a time to celebrate the great gifts of family and relationships. It’s a time for contemplation and renewed social action. For Christians around the world, it is a time to give thanks for the birth of the child Jesus, a birth that has changed the course of human history forever.

Father Francis Pizzarelli
Father Francis Pizzarelli

During this time of year, every newspaper ad and every TV commercial attempts to convince us to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, for people we can stand — and we call this Christmas?! Think about this for a moment: How many cards will you send and gifts will you give because you feel compelled to do so for all the wrong reasons, rather than just giving from your heart to the people you genuinely care about?

The “reason for this season” is to celebrate the hope that lives within each of us and the belief that we have the power to make a difference in our world. We can change the world one person at a time if we draw on faith. Kindness and compassion seem contagious this time of year. There is a spirit in the air that touches people’s hearts to engage in random acts of kindness.

What has been so powerful to witness this season is so many young people reaching out to those less fortunate than themselves. Thousands of volunteers have been helping our own local Santa Claus — Charlie Russo with his Christmas Magic program — a program that touches thousands of children across Long Island who will be spending this Christmas season in our homeless shelters.

Last year around this time Hope House Ministries opened Hope Academy on the grounds of Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai. More than 35 years ago that program of compassion and love opened its doors on the grounds of this Anglican monastery. On those grounds, Christmas miracles happen every day. Broken lives are transformed — young people who were thought to be dead have come back to life. All of this and so much more happens because ordinary people choose to do extraordinary things for others and not just at Christmas time.

Unfortunately, this holiday season there will be countless people everywhere that will not embrace the hope and joy of this extraordinary time of year. Some of them are the victims of war, some are the casualties of people’s hate and discrimination and still others will be shackled in prisons they create. We do not have enough opportunities to meet the epidemic need of those afflicted with addictions and mental health disorders. You don’t have to go to the streets of New York City to find them. They are walking and bleeding among us. Even though we are the richest county in New York State, we don’t have enough detox beds and long-term residential treatment beds to take care of our own.

The gift we could give this Christmas is to challenge the bureaucrats who lead us in Albany and Washington to celebrate this season of hope not as a season of death, to make a difference in this national health crisis we call the heroin epidemic that is infecting countless families everywhere. I pray that no one buries a son or daughter during this Christmas season due to the social indifference and benign neglect of those who lead us.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

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